Irwin relishing fresh start with new Gearlink Kawasaki
Glenn Irwin will be looking to put the disappointment of the 2013 British Supersport season behind him, when he takes to the track with new team Gearlink Kawasaki at the opening round at Brands Hatch on Easter Monday.
"I'm really looking forward to getting started with Gearlink as they have a lot of experience as an established team in British Supersport," 24-year-old Irwin explained.
This time last year the Carrickfergus youngster had signed on the dotted line with Temple based Mar-Train Racing, in what was meant to be a dream move for the former double Irish Supersport champion.
Sadly the partnership didn't quite manifest the results both parties were expecting, with Irwin moving on in the latter part of the season in what was undoubtedly a painful, yet amicable split. But to rub salt into his already tender wounds, Mar-Train went on to lift the title with Scottish star Stuart Easton.
At home, the rivalry between Irwin and fellow Carrick man Alastair Seeley has always been bubbling in the background, and despite Seeley's two British titles and 10 North West 200 wins – the Wee Wizard still likes to be the first Carrick man past the post.
Both he and Irwin trained together in the gym and the local boxing club at the start of last season, but after Seeley got injured at Cadwell Park, whilst leading the championship, Irwin lit the blue touch paper when he got the better of an under-powered Seeley at Donington Park, to assist his team-mate Easton in the title hunt.
The defeat may have dented the injured Seeley's ego, but what did infuriate him was the way Irwin gesticulated when crossing the line for a minor top 10 placing – after winning what Seeley mimicked as 'the battle of County Antrim'.
At the time, Seeley joked: "You would think he'd won a Grand Prix the way he's getting on, rather than beating a half fit old man for the bottom half of the top 10."
But it was all handbags at dawn and once the dust had settled, the friendly banter ensued for the rest of the season. Last year, as everyone knows, Seeley lost out on his second British Supersport title crusade on the final day to Mar-Train Yamaha mounted Stuart Easton – whilst competing in the colours of Gearlink Kawasaki.
This season the Carrick pair have swapped teams, with Irwin heading up Gearlink's British Supersport assault, after Ben Wilson was promoted to the premier class with Michael and Norma de Bidaph's tight night Kawasaki squad.
And Seeley jumped straight into Tim and Sonya Martin's victorious Mar-Train Racing squad, where he will campaign a Yamaha in British Supersport, adding Kawasaki ZX10R missiles for the North West 200.
Irwin will not be at the North West, but after a handful of less than satisfactory seasons in British Supersport, the talented 24-year-old will be looking for regular rostrums in British Supersport this season.
Can Seeley be beaten? If I'm honest, I think he'll romp to the title on the Mar-Train Yamaha with half a dozen others battling for the lower rungs on the podium.
Irwin should be in that number, and regular podiums are what he needs if he's to finally establish himself as a genuine front-runner in the middleweight division for 2014 and beyond.